Georgia's Mark Richt downplays being favored against Alabama

ByDavid Ching via ESPN logo
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
ESPN

Georgia coach Mark Richt wants to hear nothing about how his team is favored to beat Alabama this Saturday, and that makes perfect sense.

Considering how his program's most recent meetings with Alabama produced two of the most painful results of his 14-plus seasons as Georgia's head coach, Richt dodged a question about being the favorite at his Tuesday news conference.

"I don't really have a reaction to that," Richt said.

Regardless of whether Richt wants to discuss it, No. 8 Georgia (4-0, 2-0 SEC) is a slight betting favorite to beat No. 13 Alabama (3-1, 0-1), ending a 72-game streak that dates back to the 2009 SEC Championship Game in which the Crimson Tide have been favored. It is the longest such streak in modern college football history.

Alabama remains among the favorites to win the SEC despite its 43-37 home loss to Ole Miss two weekends ago. Nick Saban's club, the defending conference champion, is No. 4 in ESPN's Football Power Index, one spot ahead of Georgia.

"I think Alabama's a great football team," Richt said. "They're as good or better than they've ever been, in my opinion. So I don't know what the talk might be out there, but they're as good or better than anybody in our league and as good or better than anybody in the country. You've just got to play the games and see who wins, but I think they're still a great team."

Saturday's game at Sanford Stadium will mark the first time Alabama has visited Athens since 2008, when preseason No. 1 Georgia trailed 31-0 at halftime before losing 41-30.

The Tide also won the teams' last meeting in the 2012 SEC Championship Game, which determined whether No. 2 Alabama or No. 3 Georgia would meet Notre Dame in the BCS title game; in that game, Georgia receiver Chris Conley caught a deflected pass in the waning moments but fell down inbounds at the 5-yard line, allowing the final seconds to tick off the clock in Alabama's 32-28 victory. Alabama went on to beat Notre Dame 42-14 to win its third BCS title in four seasons.

Alabama is 17-7 since 2007 under Saban against top-10 opponents, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Among schools that have played at least five such games, nobody has a better record than the Tide. Georgia has not defeated a top-15 Alabama team since 1976.

However, ESPN's Football Power Index gives Georgia a 58-percent chance to beat Alabama on Saturday.

The important thing, Richt said, will be for his players to take a businesslike approach to the week and not get too carried away with the hoopla that surrounds Georgia's biggest home game in years.

"I thought it was very much business as usual yesterday," Richt said. "I'm expecting it to be the same today. ... That's where we're trying to keep everybody's mind: on their job, on their business, on their assignment, on their responsibility and not anything else. I don't mind guys getting excited about a game. I like them getting excited about a game, but they have to be able to function well on top of that."

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